Under fire landlord incurs Audit Commission's wrath
Troubled ARHAG Housing Association has altered documents and is likely to have broken housing act rules on rehousing its own staff, an Audit Commission inspection has revealed.
The report, published this week after months of wrangling between the commission and the association over its content and rating, said ARHAG was providing residents with a poor service that had uncertain prospects for improvement.
The association is already the subject of an ongoing statutory inquiry by the Housing Corporation and is under supervision (Inside Housing, 16 December).
Inspectors found that the allocations and lettings procedure was not open, accountable or transparent and files and committee records had been altered. The report warned that the association was likely to be in breach of schedule 1 of the Housing Act 1996 over the way it had rehoused members of staff.
ARHAG, which was set up to house refugees, was also criticised for failing to provide tenants with literature 'in any of the community languages spoken by them'.
Karen Buck MP, who has been strongly supporting tenants in her constituency with grievances against ARHAG, said the report 'sadly rings very true'.
She criticised the Housing Corporation, as the regulator, for not having taken action earlier. 'This does not happen overnight,' she said.
Owen Ingram, interim chief executive at ARHAG, said he fully accepted the inspectorate's findings. The association had already taken action including starting to improve the lettings service, appointing a new maintenance contractor and auditing tenants' language needs.
He admitted it would take some time to win back tenants' confidence and said the association was now communicating with them regularly.
He confirmed reports that he was paid £650 plus VAT for each day that he worked at ARHAG but stressed it would not impact on tenants' rents. 'Rents are fixed by government policy,' he said. 'The association has approved a budget, which includes all expenditure to ensure that the association is managed in good order for the next 12 months.'
Tony Soares, who has worked as a consultant for ARHAG in the past, said he thought the report was over critical of the association. 'It seems to have focused a great deal on the allegations of improper lettings rather than on the service,' he said.
ARHAG chief executive Ronnie Moodley, who was suspended in January, is understood to be considering legal action against the corporation over his suspension.